On August 9, 2021, exactly one year to the 2022 General Elections, the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) released a calendar of events leading to the day.
The IEBC chairman, Wafula Chebukati, consequently warned that the “IEBC will reject party nomination lists which will not adhere to the two-third gender rule”.
As we approach next year’s elections, the question on Kenyan women’s lips is, “Will the two-thirds gender rule be achieved this time round?”
Several attempts to attain the gender rule have not been successful in the past, causing Kenya to lag behind other East African countries in representation of women in electoral positions. In fact, neighbouring Tanzania recently became the first country in East Africa to have a woman President.
Most of these efforts have borne no fruits. Four times, the Bill to effect the two-thirds gender principle has come before Parliament and four times it has been shot down. People have demonstrated in the streets to push the powers-that-be to effect the rule but these efforts have not yielded much.
The latest attempt to take care of the gender rule through the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) also flopped when the Court of Appeal in late August 2021 ruled that the BBI’s process was flawed. The proponents of the BBI case have filed the case at the Supreme Court, the highest court in the land but even that court is unlikely to go against the rulings of the lower courts.
In 2020, then Chief Justice David Maraga advised President Uhuru Kenyatta to dissolve Parliament for its failure to comply with the two-thirds gender rule.
In Kenya, women form the majority at 53 per cent of the population. If the numbers could translate to electoral posts, the narrative would change.
Engaging in politics
However, there are many challenges that prevent women from actively engaging in politics; such as lack of funds and political goodwill from the political class, outdated cultural practices and discriminatory electoral laws that tend to favour men, among others.
It is because of these challenges that some communities have not elected any woman since independence. A good example is Kisii and Nyamira counties. The mistake that women aspirants make is to depend on their male counterparts for support, thus limiting their bargaining power despite the ‘majority’ factor.
It is time women professionals rose to support one of their own.
For a long time, professionals have taken a back seat because they live in the big cities. They should take note of the fact that when bad leaders are elected, those who suffer are their mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters and relatives whom they left in the village.
If they unite and elect good leaders, their kin will be assured of good road networks, hospitals, schools and other basic services.
Female aspirants should hit the road running now that campaigns for the 2022 elections are on top gear, and they should demand for what is rightfully theirs.
In addition, they should align themselves to political parties and take their space. They should also demand to be funded by their political parties from the allocation meant for women and hold political parties to account.
Women aspirants from counties with zero women in electoral positions should benchmark with women from other counties who have managed to win electoral posts. This way they can be ready to deal with challenges from an informed point.
Similarly, civil society groups and others dealing with political processes should support women aspirants in pointing out issues that hinder women from participating in elective politics and raising them with the relevant authorities.
The media can also play a big role in highlighting issues affecting women aspirants. This way, perpetrators of electoral violence can be brought to book.
Besides, the media can run workshops and seminars aimed at sensitising women on the importance of supporting and electing one of their own.
– Dr Stella Onyiego is a Senior Lecturer in Communication at Moi University.